No More Wasted Resolutions: Learning to Innovate in the New Year

Learning to Innovate

Gustav Mahler, the famed composer, once said, “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again”. As the calendar turns over into the new year and winter begins to loosen its grip on the world around us, we might find ourselves feeling that very thing. The renewal of the year is a paradox of such magnitude that January sounds the claxon of excitement and depression in the heart of nearly every person, and hence try to innovate.

Spring signifies rebirth and resurrection, the resuscitation of hope for our potential and our dreams; every January 1st the world collectively hits the reset button. They start measuring progress and time from a place of “beginning”. And yet, each new year brings with it a closing of the year before; and distance between both the bad and the good of our past. We are not individuals having a stagnant experience﹘we age and progress, and life affords us very few “do-overs,” just innovations.

Not a Renewal, an Improvement

Jumping into Spring with the spirit of innovation can add a whole new dimension to how one approaches new beginnings. If prompted to write down the five most common New Year’s resolutions, what would they be?

  • Lose Weight
  • Travel Somewhere
  • Get a New Job
  • Start/Finish an Important Project
  • Save Money

Each of these resolutions is, at its core, about building upon the life one already has﹘either to improve it or add color to it; the goal of a “tabula rasa” is not to achieve nothingness, but to build with the tools already in place. To embrace the new year properly means to take an honest inventory of the state of things as they lie, and make a conscious effort to improve it.

Take for example the job of renovating the exterior of the house. It’s a goal many homeowners long to achieve in the new year, but the first question of every architect and landscape developer will be “what are we working with?” Whereas some homeowners would like to knock down a few walls in order to better use the site upon which the house stands (the “weight loss” approach to home renovation, if you will), others want to preserve what makes the house special while increasing its stability and beauty (the “save money” approach). Both methods﹘the redesign and the restoration﹘are valid uses of the space. Each of it takes what the home is already giving them and innovates upon it.

Resolving to Be Honest

Of course, true innovation can’t occur without painstaking honesty. One can’t expect to save money until they confront how they spend it; one can’t get a better job until they address the gaps in their skill set. Taking a look at one’s situation in the cold light of day can be a fearful task, but there is a silver lining, and it starts inside: everything you see that displeases you can be improved. It can be improved this year. The argument against this attitude is that some problems are more complex than a blanket statement like that gives credit for. Some issues can’t be willed away. The path to innovation is an incremental one ﹘improvement is improvement. It doesn’t have to be complete or sweeping, but it can be enough.

Consider a typical new year’s pastime: working in the garden. Being honest about the climate of where one lives, the quality of the soil, and the money one has to work with, isn’t throwing in the towel on gardening as a whole. It’s simply understanding what kind of garden this is going to be. The land presents space to garden; what will the garden be? Sometimes, all new gardeners need is someone who has been there before to show them the way.

We Have the Technology

When US Air Force Colonel Steve Austin suffered a near-fatal accident at a NASA testing site in 1973 the response was “we can rebuild him. We have the technology”. While the cyborg-creating tech of The Six Million Dollar Man was considered a fantastical departure from the very real prosthesis work doctors would spend decades improving, the idea of using science to improve a person’s life is the kind of attitude that (perhaps ironically) elevates these resolutions out of the realm of fantasy and grounds them in reality.

When planning for the new normal of dieting and exercising that precedes weight loss. Taking time to consider how technology can help achieve your goals is never a waste of time. Deciding what technology is best for you requires a more holistic look at what’s available and determining from which angle you’ll be working. Have there been new breakthroughs in the creation of diet supplements? What about advancements in workout gear, like running shoes, smartwatches, and gym equipment? Choosing to utilize technology and science doesn’t necessarily mean that one must invest in the market’s newest inventions; choosing science means working smartly much more than it means working expensively. Learning what the experts say will often save you more money than you’ll spend, which can make or break some resolutions, especially as they relate to the innovation of your house or yard. We live in the greatest age of information-sharing and technology in human history﹘every resolution is attainable with a little research.